14 May, 2008

Twilight Semi-Formal, May 10, Duxbury Free Library, Duxbury Massachusetts

On May 9, I drove to Duxbury Massachusetts to witness a Twilight themed semi-formal organized by the Duxbury Free library and involving three neighboring towns. This was certainly an adventure. I doubt I’ll be able to use any of the information I gathered academically, but personally it was very interesting to see this aspect of the Twilight phenomenon. It was good to see how much this series of books inspires people and encourages them to share and interact with each other… while I feel the edges of obsession often in my life, it’s not usually something that becomes a group activity for me; it’s generally an internal thing that I certainly talk about a lot with people around me to the point of driving them crazy, but I don’t tend to share with others who have a similar obsession. I think I was always a bit too territorial to share; they were my obsessions, so I never joined the Harry Potter fan clubs, The Dark is Rising reading group or the Lord of the Rings Online community. It was great to attend this event as an observer and see a bit more of what life can be like in the throes of fanaticism shared with friends and peers.

There were a number of events planned for the evening to encourage and maintain the group’s enthusiasm. The library staff encouraged the attendants to dress as their favorite Twilight character as there was going to be a look-alike contest near the end of the evening, they planned a fan fiction reading, a trivia contest, showed a student-made Twilight film (put together by Logan Brown, and it was quite fun; they showed the final battle from Eclipse between the newborns/Cullens/werewovles, and as that wasn’t written in detail in the book they were able to involve a lot of people and plan it out as they wished without the constraints of remaining loyal to the book… I imagine this is a glimpse of what the creative team of the Twilight film felt when they decided to show the final fight in the ballet studio and realized they had a little more freedom as it was an unwritten scene!), and there was also a fan art display. The main room was decorated with black and red streamers, and artificial evergreens spotted the room, which I assumed was to replicate the feeling of the Olympic National Forest that surrounds the town of Forks, WA.

The enthusiasm of the teens was tangible. Girls squealed over each other’s costumes and bickered good-naturedly about who made the best Bella (my personal favorite was the one in a hospital gown, accompanied by ‘Dr. Cullen’ who wore a sign proclaiming, “I’m here for the Danger Magnet”) and the guys (yes, there were a surprisingly large amount of guys there, and every single one of the ones I spoke to had read all of the books), who were mostly dressed as werewolves, growled, howled and tackled each other like the wolf pack that they were impersonating. Dancing was the main event, but every now and then there’d be a break from 'Soulja Boy' and something Twilight-y would occur.

I spoke with a number of the teens about their love for the books, and their thoughts about the film. The conversations were mostly screaming and squealing with enthusiasm about their love for the books, whether they were on team Edward or team Jacob (which also became an interesting conversation... as they felt that Edward had a huge advantage being 90 years more mature than the rebellious teenage werewolf... I don't think age had anything to do with Bella and Edward's love, but there you are...), but between those outbursts they had clear answers for what appeals to them about these books. Dennis White said that he thought one of the main draws was that it had a "supernatural charm but from a human perspective, so you could get caught up up in that good story." They shared what they were most excited to see on film, and what they feared would change. The general consensus was that the film makers would depict something differently than how they pictured it in their mind and it would take them out of the story. Sadly, this is inevitable as no film maker can make something look right to everyone as each person pictures things differently. This group of young, avid readers want to keep Twilight as the pure story that they hold in their imagination, and while they are certainly excited about seeing certain things on screen (the baseball game, the meadow, and the ballet-studio fight were the most popular), they don’t want it to taint their favorite work or distract from the pictures that they have imagined. They also expressed a fear that people who would just go and see the film, and who had never read the book- a fear that is also inevitable in some movie-goers as I’ve heard way too many times, “No, I haven’t read Harry Potter... but I've seen the movies,” and I don’t feel that is a generally well-accepted answer.

Yes, there will certainly be a number of people who go just to see the film, and I’m going to hope that they are entertained and think it a decent film. But to the true fans, the people who have read Twilight and hold a special place in their hearts for Bella and Edward, I hope that they realize that many things will have to change for this printed story to translate to the screen, but I hope that they are also aware of how much effort, love and care went into this adaptation; it’s more than I’ve seen for most of the other works that I have studied. They made changes when necessary to make it a better visual experience, but they never compromised the integrity of the story… at least that’s the feeling I get; I haven’t seen a whole script yet nor seen the whole film in action on the screen, so we’ll have to wait until December 12 to see; but from what I’ve read, heard from the creative team and witnessed myself on set, I don’t think this film will disappoint fans. Yes, there will be changes. No, every line that is loved in the books will not be in the film. Yes, the love story is still central and the driving force of all action. No, every character and every moment from the books will not be there.

I hope that it’s a film that is a great extension of my interest in Twilight; that I can see visually some of the things that I have imagined, and if it’s not exactly how I pictured it, I hope that I can respect that it is how Catherine Hardwicke, Wyck Godfrey or Greg Mooradian pictured it. I can let them share their vision with me and think that it’s neat, but that I'd be satisfied that I still have my own images in my head that is different from theirs. Neither of us is wrong for having these different visions, it’s just different. That’s how it works. I also hope it’s a film that inspires more people to go out and get the books, as that also inevitably happens. I forget the exact numbers, but The Lord of the Rings sold something like 35 million copies from 1960-2002, and sold something around 25 million copies from 2002-2005 due to the films. There will always be those people who don’t read the book and think the film was good, and those who read the book and think the film was a huge disappointment. Hopefully, however, the film can just be taken as the adaptation of this group of fans (as that’s truly what this cast, crew and creative team of Twilight are- fans) that is visually stunning, a successful film and as true to the novel as was possible and reasonable, and that it inspires a whole new group of people to go out there and read Twilight and discover some of the extra magic that comes from the reading and not just the seeing.

Huh… I didn’t mean to get up on my soapbox there, but these are the thoughts rolling through my head.

So the Duxbury event was great. It was a neat group of smart, thoughtful and passionate kids celebrating something that they love- books and the characters in them. Props to Ellen Snoeyenbos, the children’s librarian at Duxbury Free Library and the mastermind behind this event, and the Twilight reading group who helped to organize it. Ellen also made the most beautiful cloak I have ever seen (leant, kindly, to a girl dressed as Jane for the evening), so she gets a gold star for that!

Take a look at all of the pictures here.


Anonymous said...

That sounds like it was alot of fun Maggie Magee :D

Did you get dressed up? I didn't see you in any of those pictures!

kate said...

That sounds really fun:) I wish my school did something like that but I only know like 2 other people beside myself that have read the books so there isn't any interest in it! Erg......oh well thanks for sharing the pictures and post it was nice to see what other schools are up to!

Ms.Truitt said...

another great post!! I recently started my own of these things...about the twilight sickness that has taken over my school... http://novelnovicetruitt.blogspot.com/

lauraharrington said...

Thanks for all the fun info about Twilight! This is really a question about your set visit. I am wondering if you can just walk up to the set and observe from a distance? My husband and I are thinking about visiting Portland the next time they are filming, and I didn't really know if it was allowed. I understand that you had permission to be there, but were there other people just observing?

Anonymous said...

Maggie, Thank you for all of your entertaining, insightful, and educational blogs. You should be a writer yourself. You deserve an invite to one of the Twilight premiers!

m~ said...

I never read any of the Harry Potter books, but I have seen the movies, all of which I enjoyed. I know you're right, the movie will probable disappoint the true Twilighter. I read in an article somewhere that the script originally called for Bella to be a track star, thankfully they didn't allow that.
As I re-read Twilight for the, umm, 4th time I thought about what you had said and realized that a good bit of what happens in the book is what's going on in Bella head. I'm assuming that the movie will still be from her perspective, but you can't have a 30 minute action flick with a hour of Bella's thought. I'm also okay with the scenes not taking place in the exact place they happened and I realize that the weather was uncooperative, I just hope it still has the same flavor that SM intended with some really good music!

ThinkBrown said...

The Film rocked. The People Rocked. The Party Rocked. I should know. I was there, and I did the movie.

Shar said...

I loved your soapbox moment! You said everything so eloquently and it's 100 percent spot-on what I think about books vs film adaptations. They're two separate mediums and require separate approaches. And it's funny how people get so frustrated when something doesn't match their imagined version...when how can another person know and think exactly the way you do in your head. It would be impossible! Anyway, great posts. thanks.